LESBIAN UNDERWORLDS

I am in bed. Burning mugwort. Wondering how far I will make it into this post or what errors I will inadvertently memorialize by writing publicly in this fugue state. My head my head hurts but my room is very comfortable I am lying down with an ipad on my lap and the hum of the AC which comforted R and it may or may not be raining now but it was raining when I parted with L and M and the last thing M said was, come find me if you ever want to wallow in misery. I laughed as I briskly crossed Mass Ave. Light rain, street lights refracted by puddles but I am not walking to the subway I’m on my way to the bad room. Goodbye world! Goodbye time! I’ll see you when my worries are diminished such that anything else is allowed to enter…

What. What…? Write us anything. But what is there to say? That Cixous’ voice in my headphones soothed me while I was walking to the gym? That I sat in the grass with people while eating veggie burger patties and a woman from China sat with us and L smeared ketchup on her face like it was warrior paint and then pointed to a building and asked us if we could write a book about what was going on in each room. The Chinese student walked away. J was annoyed by L’s freakish behavior. I just thought it was funny and laughed, perhaps inappropriately. Then J and L went on to discuss how as an undergrad L turned all the Harvard girls gay and while they were telling me stories of dyke tumult and turmoil my head made a transpositional leap from the French boarding school lesbian scenario of Violette Leduc’s Therese and Isabelle to an American Ivy League dormitory. Imagine: girls hooking up with girls for the first time in the shadows of all this power and prestige while the squared-jawed monied men lay the groundwork for their future careers as presidents, CEOs, bankers, and whatever else evil Harvard people do.

The unnamed dormitory where the lesbo lust circulated became a repository for my wild fantasies of erotic pedagogy, secrecy and forbidden desire. In my imagination the dorm was a kind of desire factory where freshman girls—disoriented by the the process of leaving the nest and newly released from the grips of tyrannical, overbearing parents—were finally free to experience what I believe is latent in most women: the desire for women. Or maybe I’m just attaching myself to a fantastic image of a subterranean lesbian sociality that doesn’t actually exist or maybe L is just endowed with the magical power to turn straight girls gays. I don’t know.

This is not what I came here to say. I opened up this window intending to write a pre-PhD assessment of my values but instead I wrote about lesbians. It probably says something about my values.

Desiring defectively as a form of life

"Anything that happens is probably fine."

It was the last thing I wrote in my journal, probably minutes ago, yet when I look down at the page I already feel as though I have drifted so far in my head from this point of view. How rapidly life shifts between feeling totally unlivable to deeply humorous. The people around me seem fine. Even when their lives are a mess they can still make jokes about television shows and shopping the pain away by buying platform shoes. M says, “I have to keep my hair short now because I’m getting old and shaggy hair doesn’t look good on aging men.” The absence of any distress in his remark surprises me. “How do you talk about aging so casually, with such cool detachment and acceptance of the fact of aging?” His rotting teeth don’t even seem to phase him. But I can’t seem to think the phrase “we age” or look at the scars on my body without feeling deep existential dread about the inevitability of death. Becoming unlovable. A worthless woman.

I am surprised that it is possible for anyone to ever get acclimated to living. To wake up without feeling intense psychic friction or mental anguish about having to live another day. To go on dates. To make dating profiles. To move the record player from the bedroom to the living room. To check their email. To have friends over for dinner. To answer phone calls. To get haircuts. On a hot summer New York day I sat outside M’s barbershop on the curb drinking a can of Arizona iced tea, wondering if I could one day be the kind of person who gets haircuts. Everyone seemed to want to tell me about their love and sex lives and I listened with the curiosity of an anthropologist. People get drunk, have sloppy sex, scream WHY DONT YOU JUST GO GET HIS COCK in Washington Sq Park. Throw knives. Hit each other. Cheat. Get jealous. Cruise. Have make-up sex. Break up marriages. Cry. Want more. Fuck their friends. Get suspended from hooks every weekend. Give lap dances to the men of Wall St. Get tied up. Learn how to navigate being just friends. Fall in love at the wrong time. Know whether they are a “top” or a “bottom.” Feel exhausted by polyamory. Get out of bad relationships. Get into good relationships. Know what they want. Don’t know what they want. Say they want one thing then do another. Feel gendered in different ways in different contexts. Think about relationality. Don’t think about relationality. Don’t tell their old lovers they have a new lover. Get obsessed. Keep getting back together. Dry spells. Transitions. Spraying the terrain. Accept that things change. Don’t accept that things change. Protracted break ups. Not wanting to lose one’s object. -Come get your cat. -I don’t want to get the cat because that would mean that things are really over. Desire strikes, an unforeseeable bolt cleaves a life. It’s not the instability or irrationality of human relationships that surprises me, but people’s orientation to fluctuation. The ongoingness of life. The capacity to not dwell in the devastation.

While sitting in the garden with M he asks what Hannah asked when she was visiting: What do you want? To which I reply, I don’t know. He says, make a mess. If it’s not going to completely destroy you in the end, it’s fine. You’re young. Experiment.

When M’s haircut is finished we walk back to his apartment, talking about crushes, cybernetics, teeth, whatever. He stops abruptly to take a selfie of his new haircut but unable to get the lighting and angle right he hands me his phone to take the picture for him. I joke, “The selfie is the user’s attempt to assert its subjectivity against the collapse of all western metaphysical systems.” He smiles because in some small way he sees that I see him and being seen seeing also constitutes me too. Maybe in the same way someone feels they have shape only when they are caring for another. Maybe it’s the shape I’m given when I stop into a corner store to buy M Cherry Garcia-flavored Ben & Jerry’s ice cream when we were all walking home from the bar drunk. Because I knew what he wanted in that moment. Small gestures.

The day before I left for New York Dana and I talked about what it means to have shape only in relation to another. He started texting me while I was sitting on the perron of the Widener library at sunset rereading My Walk With Bob, feeling devastated about Bruce’s loss of Jonathan, his sense that he was being replaced, that it was the most natural thing that a relationship should collapse and with it, the domestic language that was form during the encounter. “How am I going to get along now, who’s going to take care of me?” Dana: “and with no one to care for—how will I be real to myself?” I told Dana that I have not yet figured out how to orient myself to loss in that I stubbornly insist on on living with absences, presentizing them because I can’t let anything go, but that’s not entirely true, I think as M and I converse with tenderness and familiarity of close siblings. I feel silly about my April sadomasochistic M fantasies, though perhaps to indulge the irrational fixation further would have been fine too. “You’re fine,” he says to my neurotic self-analysis. “Am I?” I ask. “Yes.” “But why do I feel so ashamed?” “Maybe you can play with that shame. Maybe the shame can be erotic.”

Is that the Chris Kraus approach? To not necessarily strive for shamelessness but affirm one’s abjectness or at least reconcile oneself to the possibility that what might register as a personal defect in the way that one relates to or loves others may actually be a site of potential? Anyway, M won’t indulge my usual line of thinking. You can’t convince a self-described pervert that any way of desiring is defective.

Is anyone there

Is anyone here

It’s been so long since I’ve been here

I am typing this on my phone because I don’t remember my password. I want to write you something from my computer, something thought-out and crackling with urgency or the hyperactive nervous system translated into language

I am sitting on a bed in Ridgewood that belongs to a cool person named Ashley, awake because I was separated from my sleeping pills and so am forced to confront myself or a public self that was lost a couple years ago when life became a pile of shit laced with diamonds that represents the proverbial difficult yet “valuable” lesson.

I am here because I was also separated from my journal. How is this possible, that I feel such intense separation anxiety being away from my journal? Because my journal has been my main company these last couple years but if I am to be really honest with myself I’d have to admit it has become a way of avoiding the world. It’s where I hide because…because…I am afraid.

I’m losing it. (The desire to write?) Wanted to say everything tonight or wonder aloud how it is possible to go to sleep after an anti-police/Ferguson solidarity march, especially when you are separated from your pills. Wanted to write certain moments, to burn certain images into my head or try to make sense of the intangible intensities of being alive like the ebb and flow of the energy of the crowd or the fever pitch of the collective voice when group #1 is unified with group #2 making us a mass twice as large and loud. This was New York City. I wore my thrift store Puma sneakers and carried my platform shoes in a plastic bag so I could run from the cops.

Fundraiser for a dear friend and comrade!!

Hello friends!

Jackie here. I just wanted to let you know about a fundraiser that my friend Emilie and I organized for our best friend, LaKeyma (Chelsey) Pennyamon! In addition to being a tumblr sensation (ha!), LaKeyma has worked on a number of Black radical and feminist projects in Baltimore and is a member of Coalition of Friends, the LIES journal editorial collective, and volunteer at the Youth Empowered Society (YES) Drop-in Center. She was a founding member of the Baltimore Feminist Reading Group and was one of the authors behind the widely circulated W&TCH Occupy communique. LaKeyma also has an essay coming out in the forthcoming issue of LIES: A Journal of Materialist Feminism that examines the political implications, for Black women, of defining anti-Black racism as emasculation. (Seriously—this is a *paradigm shifting* essay that you all *must* read as soon as it drops!)

We’re trying to raise money to help LaKeyma enroll at Morgan State University in Baltimore because we are continually blown away by her genius and believe wholeheartedly in her intellectual and political work. LaKeyma, who was forced out of school due to financial reasons, has been wanting to go back to school for a while but has had a difficult time re-enrolling because she has faced a number of financial and bureaucratic obstacles. With your help we hope to raise the funds necessary to cover the cost of enrollment…just in time for her birthday!!!

Help this beautiful comrade out!!

http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/send-lakeyma-back-to-school-/200241

Miss you all! Thanks for your help!
xoxo
Jackie


My girl LaKeyma (Chelsey) Pennyamon (LIES, Coalition of Friends) is trying to go back to school but is facing ridiculous financial barriers. Em and I are trying to raise money for her for her birthday! Please share this widely and donate if you can <3333

There is more to say about why withholding a lyric position might resemble — might be the very thing — that stands in: for the kind of organ speech: Bedient is writing about here. How the heart, in a T-shirt, is throbbing next to the body in the snow. How do you write into the history of bodies that don’t remain intact? That don’t get to: express? Perhaps the lack of affect is, in fact, an involuntary reversal of an ululation: the call from the body that is not: cried? A cry, that is, that is cut off before it exceeds the bodily position — to be received by others?
Bhanu Kapil’s response to “Against Conceptualism

I can’t help but be wrong in a world that doesn’t make sense to me

I remember the day the dead notes went mellifluous and I was in the texture of David Byrne singing: you’ve got light in your eyes. You’re standing in it—in fruit and color, the French word that replaced the apple as a general English condition. You can remember as much as you let yourself. You feel a certain quality of frontier tall talk in Joanna Newsom, love of this language breaking to show us what it feels like to stand on a crown unmade and remade as you make the desire with the one who listens. This is our lingua franca. There, the delay of what is always late to come, 7 million words you’ll never know. This is where sound comes in, to save you from the gaps. Shakespeare would have been a fantastic rapper and there are “yo mama” vocab books like yo mama so peripatetic she just kept walking and walking until she laid her body down on the crease of the world. The mother is the invisible key we keep because life is such that we cannot emerge ex nihilo. Some novels were lush with descriptions of the way people are, the sureness of Flaubert, exacting sentences that transmit Emma in her essence. How could I be the kind of person who doesn’t remember the drum of the boy’s peg leg or burning paper becoming black butterflies on a certain heavenward chimney path.


To return is to be returned to yourself in a moment of grace so subtle you don’t notice the whole world has shifted around you and you are suddenly where you were supposed to be, which is where you are…no matter where you are. Is this what Nietzsche meant when he talked about affirming everything that has come before you?


The words will always be there if you’ll let them be near. The committees of linguists and lexicographers will be there at the gate of the Big Book while a Glaswegian “nip” knocks at the door, begging for entrance. What unholy malapropisms I commit in my holiness because the breakdown and the adulteration of the movable tool is the only thing that makes life interesting: these words I remake, accidentally, because I can’t help but be wrong in a world that doesn’t make sense to me. This hole bore in the skin of language is the skylight of night, sitting on the midnight toilet—my thrown—throne—I know nothing until the enlarged moment sinks me. So quick is this plummet into thickness, which dwells at the depth of Shakespeare’s drowned book becoming a book of conceptual writing by women. We drown the language because we have been condemned to live a life of mostly not-knowing, writing around the naked moment, the underwater moment, when creatures are invaded, invading what invades them, the mermaid’s mind becomes a school of jeweled fish becomes a swarm of queen bees becomes a cloud of agitated moths billowing out of the sloth’s stirred hide. Who knows why some canopy dwellers lower themselves to bury their dung or how people can believe that speaking the Queen’s English will deliver them to mammon, self help-style.


The compound word, rived. Twain’s Mississippi River or Chaucer’s Canterbury—the texture of the language that moves without permission in endless proscription this movement of the thought hungry for unmapped bouquets and illicit crossbreeds breaking forms open. Obama’s drone strikes hover above all this motion, commotion, a wedding waiting to be destroyed in Yemen. How to live when everything invades—minimum wage, no-wage or ways to wage war with money. Ways to unlearn money or at least money as the primary measure of a life in contradiction and joy—we don’t understand. How stupid it is to believe that nothing moves without money, as though nothing moved before money, as though the tree grows for money, as though all movement can be reduced to the choice to work miserably toward the boss’s idiot dreams.


Don’t go to that place. Nature has given you a mind fine enough to know you have the best friends in the world. Your mind not quite literary but it may become so in the slant of your way of sensing the world.